Spike Mendelsohn and Vinoda Basnayake’s The Sheppard is Dupont Circle’s Latest Addition

Vinoda Basnayake and Spike Mendelsohn at the White House .
Vinoda Basnayake and Spike Mendelsohn at the White House.

The Sheppard takes it’s name after the 1917 Sheppard Act which introduced Prohibition to D.C.

Last night we were invited to The Sheppard‘s soft opening. We’ve been looking forward to experiencing DC’s newest speakeasy concept since learning about it after the GI Film Festival‘s annual Bachelor Auction in January. We are all familiar with Chef Spike Mendelsohn and Nightlife Impresario/Attorney Vinoda Basnayake‘s previous projects. We knew we were in for a first-class evening.

The Sheppard bears no outward markings except a green light which tells patrons when the bar is open. One by one our party of eight started to arrive. Which meant, those that were on time were diverted to The Gryphon. That was totally fine for our group of friends, as PR maven Victoria Michael just happens to be their publicist. Parties will not be seated until all of your party has arrived. I do have one suggestion for Spike and Vinoda. The “elevator host” that greeted us should be replaced by “eye-candy” (male or female) or the typical door guy – better known as “The Muscle.”

After Maria Espinoza, the last of our fashionably late friends arrived we headed back over. We were greeted by the dashing Mr. Mendelsohn personally. He ran down the house rules “no photos, no talking on your cell phone but texting is fine.” We entered the elevator and Spike took us upstairs and answered a few of our questions. The space is really limited as there are only 35 seats. The decor is dark, tufted, and warm with plenty of red velvet curtains. The ‘secret’ location is right above Vinoda Basnayake‘s Kabin Lounge.

We immediately started perusing our menus. The prohibition era styled cocktails were crafted by none other than Jack Caminos AKA Jack Stache. He actually sports a “Connoisseur” mustache. Which adds to the “Boardwalk Empire” vibe. Four of us ordered the “Gauguin” described as “if you like Piña Colada….Absinthe…” It tasted nothing like a piña colada but it was tasty. The “Belarus” was delicious too! It’s very similar to a “White Russian.” “The Cigar” has Mezcal, rye whiskey and tobacco syrup, “Huître” a foam cocktail designed to taste like an oyster or how about the “BCBG” described as an “unaged Armagnac cocktail that resembles a mildly fruity version of a Manhattan served in a sphere of ice?” Mr. Basnayake stopped by our table to say “Hello” and gifted us with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

Spike's Sriracha deviled eggs. Yum!
Spike’s Sriracha deviled eggs. Yum!

There is no kitchen, there is no food menu. So some of the ladies in our group were looking forward to eating because who doesn’t love Béarnaise, Good Stuff Eatery, and We The Pizza? Chef Spike‘s job is to handle the bar snacks. We were first served an usual yet playful combination of Swedish Fish paired with wasabi peas. Followed by a delightful cheese plate of Roquefort, brie and a few other selections. However, the pièce de résistance was the Sriracha deviled eggs topped with caviar.

Notables Spotted:

Muriel Bowser
Giuseppe Lanzone
Camelia Mazard
Victoria Michael
Tahera Zamanzada
John Burns
José Andrés

About Sen. John Morris Sheppard:
DOB: May 28, 1875
The Sheppard Bone-Dry Act was sponsored by United States Senator Morris Sheppard (D) of Texas. The Sheppard Act was passed by the US Congress in 1917. It imposed a ban on alcoholic beverages in the District of Columbia. Sen. John Morris Sheppard is referred to as “the father of national Prohibition.” Morris was a direct descendant of Robert Morris (1734–1806) who had signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution.

I wish I had some photos to share but we followed the house rules of course. The official grand opening is July 8th. Make your reservations and let us know what you think.

The Sheppard will be open evenings and reservations are taken by phone starting at 3 p.m. (the number is 202-744-4253).

The Sheppard
1337 Connecticut Ave. NW
Second Floor
Washington, DC 20036

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